Baggage delivery has hit an all-time high. The 2014 Baggage Report shows the air transport industry's success in tackling a big area of passenger dissatisfaction. The good news comes as passenger numbers continue to rise.
In 2013, the air transport industry saw a dramatic improvement in airline baggage handling as the rate of mishandled bags per thousand passengers dropped 21.2% from the previous year. So says the latest annual Baggage Report produced by SITA in association with 'Air Transport World'.
The drop in mishandling happened even though passenger numbers increased by 5.1% to 3.13 billion over 2012-2013. It means only 6.96 bags per thousand passengers are now being mishandled, down from 8.83 in 2012, says the survey.
That’s just half the rate reported 10 years ago, despite a 65.6% rise in passenger numbers over those 10 years.
Today, the annual cost of to the global airline industry of 22 million mishandled bags is US$2bn, 20% less than in 2012. In 2007, over 46 million mishandled bags cost the industry $4 billion.
That means meaning the industry has cut $2bn in annual costs in seven years by improving the baggage handling process.
Most baggage mishandling is due to delayed baggage, accounting for 81.2% in 2013. But within the delayed baggage figures, by far biggest cause of mishandling is transfer baggage. Today, that amounts to 45% of all delayed baggage, or in absolute terms, approximately nine million bags. This is a remarkable 23.2% lower than 2012.
So why the recent improvement in baggage transfer performance? The answer lies in major industry investment in areas such as messaging reliability, which enables bags with short connection times to be identified before they arrive at the airport.
Better segregation of these ‘hot bags’ in the aircraft and smart mobile devices, such as tablets for key operational staff, have also played an important role.
On top of the investment is a positive industry attitude that sees continued collaboration helping to drive the strong baggage performance and a cross-industry effort to pursue technology innovations.
”The industry has joined together to tackle the problem of mishandled bags, and we have seen great results. There is still more work to do, but 2013 was the best year ever, showing the benefits of this collaboration,” according to SITA’s CEO Francesco Violante.
A factor in driving major change was IATA’s Baggage Improvement Program action plan from 2008 to 2012, with its aim being to reduce the mishandled bag rate by 50%. Over the period the program helped the industry cut the annual number of mishandled bags by 10.5 million.
Taking on the mantle after 2012, IATA’s InBag program aims to help the industry to further tackle costs by embracing more self-service, efficient processes and systems, a modern data infrastructure and more (see ‘InBag– driving down costs’ section below).
The all-time high results clearly show the advantages of technology innovation and advances in the area of baggage. The airline industry has introduced more tracking of bags through the handling systems and at the various stages of processing them onto aircraft. Scanning of barcodes on bag-tags enables greater understanding of what’s happening to bags so that airports can identify and react to problems.
In the meantime, airports have introduced destination-coded vehicle systems to move bags around quickly and ensure minimum connect times are met.
“The industry continues to innovate by developing more self-service processes to save time for passengers and create greater operational efficiencies,” adds Violante, “with electronic bag-tag trials and airport-based self-service bag-drops among the current focus of attention.”
The adoption of ’pull technology’ adds to the effort, enabling flights to be built more intelligently. Early bags are stored and then called forward by the system, along with on-time bags to a make-up area, where all the bags for the flight arrive within a specific time period.
Instead of bags arriving over a period of one or more hours, all bags arrive at the baggage make-up area within a much shorter time, here baggage staff or robots quickly build the containers for a flight.
SITA's 2013 Airport and Airline IT Trends Surveys underline the commitment of airports and airlines to investments that provide passengers with more baggage information and full self-service at check-in.
- Over the next three years more than two-thirds of airlines and airports plan to install full self-service bag-drop machines, up from the 10% that offer the service today.
- By the end of 2016 over 60% of airlines expect to be sending bag location updates and to enable missing bag reports to be sent via smartphones.
- Around a quarter of airlines provide real-time bag status information to operations personnel to support customers; the majority of airlines plan to do so by 2016.
Tagging and bad drop
As investment continues, several airlines and airports are making headway, introducing tagging and bag-drop initiatives in 2013.
- British Airways launched a service for passengers to self-tag kiosk-printed bag-tags for flights departing Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.
- Iberia introduced ‘MyBagTag’ allowing passengers to download and print bag-tags from the airline's website. These are inserted into reusable clear plastic envelopes supplied by the airline.
- Geneva Airport started trialing the use of three self-service tag-and-bag locations for Swiss International Airlines, Lufthansa and selected Star Alliance passengers.
- And AirAsia launched Malaysia's first baggage self-tagging service at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang for all AirAsia and AirAsia X flights to reduce long waiting times in the terminal.
What’ clear is that initiatives are paying off, both for the passenger and the industry. In the meantime, SITA continues to play a major part in the ‘all-time baggage high’ through constant investment in intelligent technology to improve the bag handling process.